Initial Publication Date: June 10, 2015

Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS)

CEILS creates a collaborative community of instructors committed to advancing teaching excellence, assessment, diversity, and scholarship, resulting in the enhancement of student learning experiences in the Life and Physical Sciences at UCLA.

Divisions of Life and Physical Sciences

College of Letters and Science

University of California, Los Angeles

Established: 2014

Profile submitted by Erin Sanders O'Leary

Vision and Goals

CEILS transforms the culture of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teaching by pursuing the following principal goals:

  1. Lead initiatives that promote current and future faculty teaching development and create inclusive, student-centered classrooms
  2. Train instructors in innovative, validated teaching methods, assessment, and course design
  3. Create a community of instructors that advances the scholarship of teaching and learning in STEM education
  4. Partner with faculty to acquire grant funds to support undergraduate and graduate instructional initiatives in STEM
  5. Engage in collaborations and conversations across campus, regional, and national partners to promote multidisciplinary institutional transformation

Center/Program Structure

CEILS is a discipline-specific center for teaching and learning. It is distinct from the campus-wide Center for Advancement of Teaching (CAT), which supports instruction (e.g., classroom technology such as LMS, TA training, assessment, and curriculum improvement grants) across all disciplines at UCLA, with leadership that reports directly to the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education in the College of Letter and Science. Although CAT is separate from CEILS, the two communicate and collaborate in almost all campus-wide initiatives.

Founded in July 2014, the Center originally served as an administrative unit within the Life Sciences Division. Now CEILS is an interdisciplinary unit, home to campus programs and staff spanning the Life and Physical Sciences Divisions. CEILS also engages frequently with multiple non-science departments and programs across campus, Academic Senate committees related to instruction, and campus units serving the teaching community such as CAT and the Online Teaching & Learning Initiative. CEILS also formally collaborates with UCLA Graduate Division to coordinate pedagogical training and professional development of graduate students (including Teaching Assistants) and postdocs by leveraging our institutional membership in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), a national network of more than 40 research-intensive universities supporting the career advancement of future faculty.

Currently, the Life Sciences Division serves as the administrative home for CEILS, and so the Director reports directly to the Associate Dean of Life Sciences for Academic Programs. However, indirect reporting lines also include the Deans of Life and Physical Sciences, the Associate Dean of Physical Sciences, and the Dean/Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

CEILS has five full-time staff supported by institutional funding: Director (Dr. Erin Sanders O'Leary), Senior Associate Director (Dr. Shanna Shaked), Senior Associate Director for Instructional and Professional Development (Dr. Rachel Kennison), Associate Director (Jessica Gregg), and an Administrative Assistant (Stephy Lao). A full-time program representative, who is currently funded by grants, supports website and communication/marketing needs for Center projects and initiatives. An undergraduate assistant supports all other administrative tasks on a part-time basis. Additionally, eight faculty who also teach in the Life and Physical Science departments and have extensive experience in the scholarship of teaching and learning are distinguished as Instructional Consultants for the center.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?
Being a discipline-specific center has been critical on two important fronts: 1- securing the financial investment of "content" Deans in educational innovation and institutional transformation, and 2- building trust critical to building partnerships with faculty (typically surrounding projects or classroom reform) and fostering the development of faculty learning communities with members fully invested in best practice instruction and other pedagogical changes essential to student success.

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
As with any large institution with decentralized support for teaching/faculty development, it may be that some services and resources are duplicated between a science-based center and campus-wide centers that support teaching and learning across all disciplines. However, the university-wide model proved to be an unsuccessful model for engaging science faculty in services deemed less relevant to or not valued by their disciplines.

Center Funding

The Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS) is sustained through a combination of institutional support and past and current grants from federal and foundation sources including NIH, NSF (WIDER, IUSE, INCLUDES programs), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Programs funded through extramural sources reflect partnerships with other UCLA departments or campuswide initiatives.

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
The funding agencies guide the direction of many initiatives to implement and evaluate evidence-based, inclusive educational interventions and curricular programming, ensuring institutional goals are aligned with national goals priorities. These entrepreneurial efforts employ a scientific approach to teaching and learning, with formal assessment as an integral component. Although gathering evidence of effectiveness is essential for grant reporting, we also utilize the results as leverage in faculty discussions about classroom innovation. This approach provides significant credibility to our target audience of science faculty who want to see "local" evidence behind recommendations for change in the classroom.

What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
The institutional funding provided to support core staff ensures continuity of efforts across the science disciplines. The grant-funded project emphasis keeps CEILS at the cutting edge of STEM instruction and pedagogical innovation -- this provides motivation for ambitious and creative thinking and also engages key STEM disciplinary units in the entrepreneurial aspects of our mission to improve teaching (e.g., generates "buy in").

What are the challenges?
Challenges include the need to be very strategic about how resources are used in alignment with goals of grant-funding agencies, having a small staff whose primary/only role is with CEILS, time allocated to applying for grant funding and reporting on progress, change is a constant as grants end and begin.

Has this funding structure has changed over time?
Our center is relatively new (about 5 years), and therefore the main change has been growth in terms of faculty collaborator involvement, diversification of grants (proposal development and awarded grants) supporting curricular innovation across multiple STEM departments, and the investment of new institutional resources supporting expansion of staff.

Description of Programming

Highlights of STEM education programs, services, and resources involving CEILS can be found at these websites:

Successes and Impacts

Since CEILS was founded in 2014, communication across STEM departments, divisions, and schools at UCLA has increased with plans to capitalize on this networking opportunity and eventually evolve CEILS from a discipline-specific unit into a STEM resource center for the campus. CEILS leadership has been instrumental to the acquisition and management of several new education grants.

Evaluation and Assessment

How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?

We track the number of grants and amount of funding that we apply for, along with faculty attendance at our events. We also track our rate expansion; our success thus far has led to sufficient institutional interest to expand from one director in 2013 (a "Center of One") to multiple Associate/Senior Associate Directors with various specialties from 2016 onward. We track outcomes associated with various grant-funded projects using various instruments and evaluation tools, such as concept inventories, surveys, institutional data, and classroom observations. Finally, we survey faculty who attend events to determine what has been done well and what to improve. This formative assessment effort has led to consistently increasing interest and engagement in our Center's work. This year CEILS is undergoing a 5-year self-review and is embracing a framework for assessment of our faculty development efforts described by Beach and her colleagues (2016) in which we track five key outcomes: participation, satisfaction, knowledge/skills attainment, change in practice, and student outcomes. This effort is critical to establishing our strategic plan for the next five years.

Elements Contributing to Success

Two elements contributed to the decision to establish the CTL. First was in the form of administrative support at both the faculty level and Dean's level who served as strong advocates on behalf of the community of instructors who could benefit. It comes at a time when campus culture about teaching and its relationship to research is changing.

Supplemental Materials

Essay: CEILS and Institutional Assessment: A Critical Partnership - Jessica Gregg, Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences, UCLA

Essay: Center evaluation through proposal success, participant response, and student outcomes - Shanna Shaked, UCLA Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences